In the previous post, I mentionned my perception of France beeing "retarded" ebook-wise.
I unfortunately don't have the data and "distance" to compare correctly the US market with the french one, but my first take on it that we are not yet out of the original chicken and egg problem.
What we need is :
- enough ebooks (and at competitive enough prices) to make e-readers attractive and economically "efficient".
- good e-readers (and at competitive prices) to open up the ebooks market and give them potential customers.
- enough customers to reach critical mass.
Not until the customers critical mass is attained will indie author be able to start making profit.
As for the delay we have, at the beginning of last year's 4th quarter, we were the same stage as in the US before Amazon introduced the Kindle.
What the US had that is not that much available here is the "Amazon Kindle" launch, which seems to me to have won on all three points.
While the Kindle is available in France, it has not been internationalized (the Kindle store as well as the hardware is strictly English), there was no marketing campaign around it ... In addition to that, international kindle books prices are higher than US ones (ie .99$ --> 3.34$ international , 2.99$ --> 5.74$).
Additionally, there are hurdles that may hurt Amazon if it tried to expand into the french market (which is not a stated goal at the moment) :
- Publishers having a firm control of pbook prices (through a "unique price" law) and lobbying to have it transposed for ebooks, which would disable Amazon's price cutting strategy,
(cf (French) http://actu-des-ebooks.fr/2010/11/10/kindle-stores-amazon-conquete-europe , http://actu-des-ebooks.fr/2010/11/15/le-president-amazon-france-explique-la-situation-du-livre-numerique-francais/),
- an insufficient publisher's cooperation with providing ebooks,
- a lesser sized market,
- it's refusal to "read" epub books,
- Google's ambitions and large catalog...
The last point about Google's larger catalog is mainly about the old french news where Google had digitized a high number of books (from Libraries) and the newer partnerships with publishers to help them digitize out-of-print pbooks.
(cf (French) http://actu-des-ebooks.fr/2010/12/07/google-ebooks-le-plus-grand-catalogue-au-monde/)
However, publishers may find problems with writers not wanting to let their ebooks rights to publishers ...
Two ressellers tried and recreate Amazon's success for the Christmas season (France-Loisir/Chapitre.com and FNAC), but my perception is that it was a miss.
The "FnacBook" (FNAC.fr) and "Oyo" (Chapitre), which have Kindle/Nook like wifi/3G connectivity, greatly suffer in technical comparisons with the Kindle.
The may have failed due to
- publishers not beeing ready to offer their best-sellers at reasonable conditions,
- not so good e-readers,
- not wide enough marketing.
I think it was all a mix, and even though there were progress in the three categories, it's still not enough for ebooks to get real traction here. We will get there, that's for sure, but in how much time?
All in all, the market isn't mature enough for e-resellers to fight on price and royalties and writers to self-publish.